North America is seeing strong cucumber pricing with low supply on both coasts while demand is strong too. The light supply stems from weather related challenges in major supplier Mexico, which has seen two major storms in the early plantings regions. With Mexico’s low volume and Honduran East Coast imports significantly lower than projected and Florida still several weeks out, there may be another potential substantial jump in cucumber pricing. South Africa is seeing low supply with higher prices for cucumbers. Heavy seasonal weather changes like rain and hail slowed down growth while bringing damage to growth structures that further reduced available supply.

Netherlands and Belgium: More even supply expected
This winter, there has been an increase in supplemental lighting usage in Dutch and Belgian greenhouses again. Decreased energy prices facilitated this trend. Prices were high and above the five-year averages during the tail end of 2023, but a declining trend has been observed since the beginning of 2024.

Last winter, peak prices were recorded between weeks 5 and 10. Subsequently, prices sharply declined, only to recover towards the summer. High supply from Southern Europe is currently also being cited as a cause for economically challenging weeks.

The average auction price at the Federation of Belgian Horticultural Cooperatives reached 42.7 euro cents per piece in week 9. This auction price is a reference closely monitored by many, including in the Netherlands, especially with an increasing trend towards contract-based cultivation.

The cucumber acreage in the Netherlands has not grown after a challenging 2023. In 2023, over 33 hectares were added, partly due to growers switching from tomatoes. In Belgium, a 3 percent increase in acreage is reported for 2024. The largest auction, at the BelOrta cooperative, speaks of the ‘largest cucumber acreage in recent history.’

It is expected that due to milder energy prices, supply will be more evenly distributed with fewer production peaks. However, even at the beginning of March, it is noticeable that quite a few greenhouses are still empty. In other words, not every grower has returned to the traditional cultivation schedule. There are still quite a few smaller cucumber growers who rely purely on a boiler. Early starting and increased heating costs are still expensive in such cases.

“In cucumbers, we see that the supply from Spain and Morocco has been quite large in the last few weeks,” says a Belgian trader. “Our own volumes are now increasing quite rapidly. Several growers have come into production and pricing is reasonable. Due to considerable pressure on the market, the last few weeks have been really difficult, but last week things started to improve. Again, however, we have to contend with production from, especially, Spain, which is still clearly present. The transition from southern to western European supply really has yet to happen. For us, this will preferably come in the coming weeks, but it all depends on what is still in stock from the south and what agreements are in place.”

Israel: Expensive local production
In Israel cucumber production is only for the local market, but pricing is generally expensive. Production is impacted due to the war situation with a lot of producers who could also not keep up with the usual production schedule.

Sweden: Seeing good Spanish supply
Up to week 8 Sweden had good volumes of Spanish filmed and unfilmed cucumbers. There is however, slightly smaller volumes of Pecka’s circularly grown cucumber in the coming weeks in the country, while filmed Swedish cucumbers were also available

Early last month (February) the season’s first unfilmed cucumber from the Netherlands arrived in Sweden, while the Spanish one still dominates. Cucumbers packed of 38pcs and 44pcs from Spain have been available in good volumes a large importer stated.

Italy: falling prices
In Italy, according to data from GfK Consumer Panel Services, more than 42% of households have bought cucumbers in the last year, a percentage that is increasing compared to the past. In the main Italian wholesale markets, first category cucumbers of Italian origin (mainly Sicilian) are sold in boxes or in multilayer packs at prevailing prices ranging from €0.90 (size 14-21 cm) to €1.20-1.50 per kg. There is also a second category of product with a prevailing price of 0.60 €/kg. According to Ismea data, the average producer price for greenhouse cucumbers in February 2024 was 0.66 €/kg, 28.2% lower than in January 2024 and 30.1% lower than in February 2023. After an average producer price of 0.64 €/kg in October 2023, greenhouse cucumbers peaked in December 2023 at 1.04 €/kg, before declining in the following months (in January 2024, the average producer price was 0.92 €/kg).

A leading trader in northern Italy says the cucumber market has changed somewhat in recent weeks. The product, which is processed in boxes, was selling from warehouses in Sicily for up to 1.30 €/kg until 10 days ago. In the last few days, however, prices have fallen to €0.80. As of today (week 10), the product is almost exclusively Sicilian, as the other main production area, Lazio, is at least 10-15 days behind. Among the varieties, the long cucumber is the one that fetches the highest prices, partly because it is considered more digestible, while the short cucumber is the standard.

In the Agro Pontino (Lazio), the areas dedicated to cucumbers seem to be increasing. One farmer in the region is in his third year of production and expects a 40 per cent increase. The first planting is now under way and will be harvested between May and November. They will be destined for the domestic market.

France: significant price differences between French and foreign products
The market is currently dominated by French origin, which began its campaign almost two weeks ago, as well as Spanish and Dutch origin. French producers are concerned about prices, as the difference between Spanish/Dutch and French products is quite marked, with a difference of up to 0.50 cents, unlike last year. However, this year, French distributors are favouring “low prices” due to inflation, so consumers may find it easier to switch to foreign products. This year, growers are also hoping that the weather will favour consumption, as “last spring and early August, the lack of sunshine hampered demand”.

Germany: Delayed start to the domestic harvest
In week 8, the first mini and regular cucumbers were harvested in Nuremberg Knoblauchsland, the largest contiguous greenhouse cultivation area, with a slight delay. Demand for the first domestic cucumbers was particularly high. However, according to one gardener, the price situation could be a little better. “Last year, there were fewer goods from the Netherlands due to the high energy prices, which was reflected in a high price level. This year’s start to the season, on the other hand, will be characterized by volume pressure from Spain and the Netherlands, which will have a corresponding impact on prices.” Overall, prices are 40-50 cents/unit below the previous year’s level.

Meanwhile Spanish regular cucumbers generally dominated the market, with harvest volumes in the Netherlands and Belgium increasing and gradually taking market share away from Spanish imports. Greek and newly imported domestic supplies supplemented local marketing. In Hamburg and Berlin, Papenburg products from the heated cultivation were introduced.

Spain: Almería takes over from the Netherlands in European market
The harvests in the winter cucumber plantations are ending in Almería “and there will be a small gap of a couple of weeks until the new plantations begin,” says an operator from the province.

However, prices have registered low values that did not agree with the current offer. “Supposedly the Netherlands starts this week, but there really is no cucumber on the market to justify the very low prices we are seeing, and there will be a mess between the price paid in the grocery stores and the one paid by retailers.”

“In addition, this year German retailers have communicated that they want to say goodbye to Spain in cucumber, when they begin to change flows to the Netherlands, with promotions,” he continues. “It will have to be done to the extent possible, because they are our contracts, but we are going to be quite compromised with the margins in these times of less harvest when we are at the time of the change of cycle in the greenhouses.”

“When the Netherlands enters the market, its first volumes are not notable; It even buys cucumber from Almería to supply its own contracts with retailers, acting as another link in our chain. That is why they generally set prices lower than they should be at the beginning of a campaign with low volumes,” he points out.

Poland: Very big rise in cucumber imports from Russia
Wholesale markets in Poland have seen a huge increase in imports of Russian cucumbers due to the low pricing. The country normally imported up to 3,000 tons, but this has jumped to around 8,000 tons last year with the trend continuing in 2024. Russia on the other hand has banned Polish produce imports for a number of years now. Poland is one of the countries with the highest levels of cucumber imports, ranking only behind the UK, Germany, US, the Netherlands and Pakistan.

North America: See strong cucumber pricing
Supply of cucumbers is still light on both coasts and demand remains strong.

The light supply traces back to plantings for the winter season that began in Mexico in August/September. This was to produce cucumbers after the transition from summer/fall growing region to a new winter region for availability beginning in November though ultimately drought partly impacted the volumes planted. Then, two major storm systems hit the plantings that were early. In addition, in December and into January, an abnormal cold spell also hurt a lot of those plantings.

With Mexico’s low volume and Honduran East Coast imports significantly lower than projected and Florida still several weeks out, there may be another potential substantial jump in cucumber pricing.

The market has also been uneven in pricing–some days it comes off somewhat and then it picks up again but currently it is high in the double digit range. Production on cucumbers from the Northern Mexican region of Sonora will start in about 10 days and continue out of that region until about mid-June.

South Africa: Low supply, higher prices
Cucumber supply is currently under pressure as a result of seasonal changes leading to lower temperatures, slowing down growth.

In some areas rain, hail and wind had damaged growth structures, which has also reduced available supply. “This is a difficult week for cucumbers as a result of lower supply and hence higher prices,” a trader says.

At the Johannesburg fresh produce market 8kg cartons sell for R17.65 (just under one euro) per kilogram at the moment.

Credit   Clayton Swart